Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, April 14, 1863

Little of interest to-day at council.

The War Department, which early in the War claimed that the armed force on the Western rivers should be subject to military control, became involved in difficulty. Naval officers, naval guns, naval men, and naval discipline were wanted and so far as could be done were given, but Congress merely ordered that the armed vessels should be transferred to the Navy. This law had given offense to the War Department, and when the transfer was made, the “ram fleet,” as it was called, was withheld. This was, as I said to Stanton, in disregard of the law and would be likely to lead to difficulty, for, while there might be cooperation, there could not be separate commands without conflict.

The ram fleet was commanded by the family of Ellett, brave, venturous, intelligent engineers, not always discreet or wise, but with many daring and excellent qualities. They had under them a set of courageous and picked men, furnished by the military, styled the Marine Brigade, and did some dashing service, but refused to come under naval orders, or to recognize the Admiral in command of the Mississippi Squadron. The result was, as I anticipated might be the case, an arrest and suspension of Brigadier-General H. W. Ellett from the command of the ram fleet.

Stanton is very laudatory of the Elletts, and violent in his denunciations of Porter, whom he ridicules as a “gas bag and fussy fellow, blowing his own trumpet and stealing credit which belongs to others.” There is some truth in what he says of the Elletts and also of Porter, but the latter with all his verbosity has courage and energy as well as the Elletts.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 272-3

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